Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

I had the chance to hear a talk about the much-anticipated book Planting in a Post-Wild World by the authors, Thomas timberRainer and Claudia West. I know I promised a book review and giveaway today, but having now read the whole book, I’ve decided that it’s so thought-provoking, I want to comment at length, with examples of how their new and controversial ideas about designing with plants answers my decades-long questions on the subject and is already impacting my garden.

For the giveaway, just leave a comment to win a copy of the book (until close of business next Friday). A winner will be chosen at random.

While I’m still digesting the most interesting book I’ve read about plants and landscapes since Second Nature in 1992, here are some images and notes from Thomas and Claudia’s talk.

Thomas grew up in a suburb of Montgomery, Alabama, where he has observed the typical American transformation of natural areas into housing divisions and shopping malls.


Claudia’s story is sure different. She grew up in East Germany and showed us the image above left of a typical strip-mining site there, which has been restored to something more natural since the fall of the Communist regime.


Claudia’s family ran a landscape and nursery business and experienced up-close the European passion for plants native to North America.


So what a shock it was to come to the States and discover that most American landscapes look like this.


Later in the talk, this image illustrated one of the authors’ criticisms of garden design today – too much bare ground and the resultant overuse of mulch. More on that soon.


Planting in a Post-Wild World starts with the world as we find it today – mostly urban and suburban, and getting more so each year. There’s no going back, but there’s wisdom (and a lot less maintenance) in designing according to how plants actually grow together. What a concept!